Perennial Challenges: It Isn’t Easy Being Green
All field-based farming includes a challenge found in few other businesses: the volatility of nature. Growing perennial fruits and berries of adds another layer of complexity, because these trees, plants and bushes require dedicated space, specific climate conditions, and year-round care.
While berries are able to set a succession of blooms–which helps reduce the risk of total crop loss–tree fruits have only one crop per season, though planting different varieties with different bloom and ripening periods can help diffuse the risk. Late frosts, a hail storm or myriad other challenges can eliminate the entire harvest for the season. And, making the dance even more complex, the harvest window and “shelf life” of berries can be measured in hours, not the days or weeks of other crops.
Anne and Chuck Geyer are experienced, knowledgable farmers, who understand the responsibility they carry for providing healthy and nutritious food for their community, a safe workplace for their employees, and caring custodians of their land and the diverse community of pollinators and resident wildlife with which they share their fields.
Whether Farmer Chuck is protecting his beloved trees from blooming too early by applying a coat of white latex paint (it helps reflect the sun and keeps the trunks from warming) or spraying to prevent the growth of molds and mildew after a rainy spell, the mindset for the farm is prevention and minimal intervention.
Where Would We Bee Without Our Pollinators?
We hope we never find out, that’s for sure. In addition to the lively hives of European honeybees, expertly maintained for us by Robert Cunningham of Goldenrod Farm, our fields are home to myriad native pollinators, including many other types of bees, butterflies, moths, birds, bats, beetles and other insects. One factor that makes the Agriberry Farm fields such a haven for pollinators is the diversity of plantings, surrounded by native woodlands: the blooms start in early spring with the peaches, and don’t stop until the red raspberries are done with the first hard frost, typically in October or November.
Filling the GAP
The Geyers are also proud to have achieved in 2016 received their first Good Agricultural Practices certification, which is a new program by the USDA to help ensure that food produced on US farms is safely handled and traceable from the farm of origin all the way to the consumer.
Is Agriberry Farm “Organic?”
While Agriberry Farm is not Certified Organic, it uses many “organic” practices, and all their field practices meet or exceed guidelines for safety, both in the fields and on the table. Their approach focuses on working with nature’s resources and balances, instead of seeking to control every aspect of the field environment, and their use highly targeted Integrated Pest Management (IPM) practices help achieve healthful multi-year plantings with the minimum intervention, and all their Partner Farmers feel the same.
You are encouraged to visit the farm and fields during the Open Farm Visits during harvest season to see the vibrant community of flora and fauna at work making your beautiful fruit.
Do You Know What “Organic” Actually Means?
There’s a lot of information, and mis-information, out there about what “Certified Organic” actually means. Many consumers believe that “Organic” means the same as “No Spray,” but that isn’t remotely true. While some synthetic substances are prohibited for use by Organic guidelines, many are actually permitted, along with a host of “natural” substances that are available for use by Organic farms.
While we’re not knocking anyone’s practices or buying choices, we feel that the question, “Are you Organic?” requires more than just a one word answer. The Geyers have decided they are more comfortable choosing the safest, most effective tools for the job of protecting their nutritious food, whether or not it comes with the most popular label. And, they aren’t in any hurry to switch to using less effective–in some cases flat-out harmful “natural” chemicals–in order to attain an Organic stamp of approval.
Want to learn a little more about what the Organic label really means? Here’s a great article from back in 2011 in Scientific American that still holds true today. Thanks for taking the time out to read this, and for being willing to think a little more deeply about the complexities of our food systems.